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Art Smith, Orphan Train Rider
(In His Own Words)

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At age 71, I was shocked to discover that in December 1922, my eleven companions and I were not just an isolated 12 orphans--wending our way westward by train to find a home.  We were part of the greatest children's migration known in the history of the World, possibly numbering as many as 350,000.  Based largely on this migration, scores of school children in 38 States this year have put together History Day Projects and are eagerly contesting for honors.  It all began with Charles Loring Brace, a young Methodist minister and social worker in New York City.

Brace, a young graduate of New York's Union Theological Seminary, appalled at the sight of 10,000 ragged and homeless boys and girls earning their living on the streets of the city in any way possible, good or evil, determined to do what he could to salvage their lives.  After studying remedial methods in Europe and th U. S., Brace persuaded some New York business men to finance The Children's Aid Society, which still flourishes at 105 East 22nd Street, New York City, 10010.  Deciding there were far too many children to care for all of them in New York City, Brace devised what he called his "Placing-Out" plan to send these children where he was certain they would be needed and cared for--to the ver increasing number of Western farms.  Thus, in 1854, Brace's plan was activated, and very soon was eagerly copied by many child-care organizations in cities, as far West as Chicago.  For the majority of the children it turned out to be a successful way to find loving parents and a fine new life.   However, reports of children who endured the pain of being parted from siblings, or had other negative experiences, in later years contributed to the rise of a growing opposition to Brace's plan.  This, and the negative effects of the depression which caused many farmers to lose their farms, brought the program to an end in 1930.

For the past nine years I have sought reasons why I did not read about all of this in school.  Though dutifully chronicalled by able writers and the press, the details never seemed to become widely known or to be considered for school history books.   One authority suggested that history is generally written and recorded about adults, and not about children.  It remained for a researcher, Mary Ellen Johnson, to discover some of these children--as adults, prompting her to establish the Orphan Train Heritage Society of America, Inc. located at 614 East Emma Drive, Springdale, Ar, 72764.   Through her Society she records the many stories and calls us "Orphan Train Riders".  The migration, though still neglected by history book publishers, began to draw increasing attention from writers, actors, and producers.  Excellent fiction and technical books, films tapes, and documentaries appeared, and riders and their descendants also began to tell their stories in schools, or wherever eager listeners gathered.  By these witnesses the story of this great "Children's Migration" lives on.

In conclusuion, and on behalf of all riders, I want to praise Cobblestone Publishing, Inc. (noted for it's famous American History for Kids) for featuring us so beautifully in a classic April 1998 issue of Cobblestone magazine.  In this issue you have gone a long way toward marking The Orphan Train Era as authentic American History.

Submitted by Arthur F. Smith, Orphan Train Rider, 1922

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